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Which? debate prompts call for protected learning time

By News team

Pharmacy teams should have protected learning time to think about how they can work together to improve medicines supply. This was one of the suggestions made yesterday (8 July 2013) at a meeting jointly organised by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the General Pharmaceutical Council in the wake of this year’s Which? report.

The meeting was attended by various stakeholders, including pharmacy organisations, pharmacy staff, training providers, manufacturers and trade bodies.

Discussing Which?’s finding that counter assistants were more likely to give poor advice if they did not consult the pharmacist, some participants suggested rethinking sales protocols, such as the WWHAM framework (Who is it for? What are the symptoms? How long has it been going on? Action taken? Medicines taken?), and taking a more patient-focused approach.

Margaret Watson, senior research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, shared findings that showed on average only two of the five WWHAM questions are asked during a consultation, with patients being asked whether they are taking any other medicines in less than 40 per cent of consultations. Her analysis of just over 190 consultations also revealed that although medicines counter assistants gather some information via WWHAM, they do not use it to inform subsequent decisions.

RPS President Martin Astbury suggested that there could be a system whereby certain medicines or certain patients (for example, those taking other medicines) are required to consult the pharmacist directly.

Pharmacists’ Defence Association director John Murphy argued that the Which? findings suggest pharmacists need to be more accessible but that the profession is moving towards pharmacists being less accessible, for example, through proposals for remote supervision.

Immediately after these initial discussions, a workshop was conducted to seek commitments from participants on further action to improve the consistency of medicines advice. This workshop was not open to the press but the outcomes will be published in due course.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11123141

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